Go out and train everyone you meet,
far and near, in this way of life.

Why Study?

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we will begin yet another book study at South. This one is different, though, because we will be doing it with another church, Trinity Emmanuel Presbyterian Church (9 Shelter Street, across the river from South). We will meet for five consecutive weeks, reading Wes Moore’s best seller: The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.

Every so often, someone will ask me, “Why do you people study so much? Why should I come to a CLASS when all I need is my faith?”

Y’know … being a person of faith is kind of a tricky thing. On the one hand, you have to be willing to accept some things that can never be proven (like Does God really exist? Was Jesus ever human? How about miracles?)  and on the other hand, you have to be able to engage your mind because after all, that’s a God-given gift. As Presbyterians, we believe that intellect and faith are not in opposition — religion and logic are not at odds — God uses ALL of us to make Godself known to us.

If you look at who you were in elementary school and who you are today, there’s a big difference.

We see the world differently than we did when we were 11 or 12 … our experiences are vastly different from when we were 11 or 12 … we know more about relationships … most of us have experienced love and loss, joy and betrayal in ways that we couldn’t have when we were 11 or 12. VERY FEW of us would try to operate as adults in today’s world with the knowledge and experience of an 11 or 12 year old.

And yet for many of us … the last time we studied anything about religion, God, forgiveness, reconciliation, or our own spirituality was when we were 11 or 12. Why would we think it would be different about our own spiritual growth? Why would we ever think we could be a fully engaging adult in that area of our life if we were operating on a 6th grade level?  There’s nowhere else in the WORLD that we would expect a 6th grade level to be the height of experience or knowledge.

Now, does that mean that we haven’t grown in those areas? Of course not. But to really solidify knowledge and refine it … to hone it  in some way … it often helps to engage others who are also learning similar things. Hand a monkey a camera and at least a couple of pictures out of 100 are going to look like something. 🙂  

I think it’s a little like medicine and counseling. MOST (not all, but most) of the time you can get along on your own and come out all right. But it sure takes a lot longer than if you’re able to go to someone(s) who can serve as a reference point or a guide along the way, doesn’t it? We can all stumble into our own cures for things but if I want to speed it along, I would probably call my friends who are herbalists or doctors.

The same is true with counseling. Except in the cases of mental illnesses, I can probably figure most things out on my own, but it goes so much FASTER if I talk with someone who, because of their experience and training, recognizes the mile markers along the way. They can help me learn to recognize them, too, so the next time I’m in that region of my  life, I’ll find my way around a little better. 

But for some reason we don’t want to do that with religion and spirituality.

I don’t get it.

When I was teaching young teachers for a while, I  used to explain that a lot of parents think that because they went to school and had teachers teach them, that THEY knew how to teach. Well, let’s face it … anyone who has become a parent suddenly realizes that the experiences we had being parented will carry us only so far. There’s a lot we need to learn from other people, from books or websites … having had someone do something with us does not mean that we are particularly good at teaching that thing to others.

And yet as people of faith, that is EXACTLY what we are called to do and be … teachers … fellow-travelers … conduits for insight into idea of faith. And I wonder:  How can we possibly do that if we are operating on a 6th grade level?????  We can’t. All we can do is recite what we might have heard by that time (if we can even remember).

So … THAT’s why we keep studying.

What I thought was right and wrong at  age 12 reflected seeing everything as clear cut, polar opposites. I don’t experience the world that way as an adult. Now I see extenuating circumstances and shades of gray all around me.  But the good news?  God is in the shades of gray, not just in black & white. And the other Good News? Jesus is a guy who sees things in the shadows, too. What the world thought was good right, he challenged and what the world thought was “less than,” he lifted up as a shining example.

Now all of this is not to say that only our classes are the good classes or that our interpretation of things always makes sense. The important  thing is NOT the product … it’s the PROCESS.  By studying and learning … our spiritual muscles get exercised and … well … they mature and they catch up with our bodies and our chronological age. In other words, we mature, grow, deepen, and are  better able to navigate through life.

So go … find a class … find a teacher (a.k.a. guru) … and study a little bit.

It can’t hurt. And you might find that it even helps! 🙂

Have a great day!
Pastor Deb


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